Sexual Health

Your Ego and Your Ex – Why Break Up’s Are So Hard

A break-up is tough, perhaps one of the tougher things that a person can face. To lose someone so close, to have them reduced to a mere acquaintance, to know that you may never experience their love again; that is heartbreak.

The instinctual reaction to heartbreak is something like grief. You may experience denial: ‘this can’t be happening’; anger: it’s not fair!’; bargaining: ’please, don’t leave me’; depression; and finally, (hopefully) acceptance.

This grieving process is often natural, but extremely painful. Those being broken up with can suffer tremendously, but so can the person who broke it off. They may have been subjected to bearing the brunt of their ex’s emotions, which are often wild and visceral.

When you’re breaking up with your partner, it’s important to keep in mind your reasons for doing so, especially if they are experiencing the anger and bargaining phases.

Your ex may say just about anything to convince you to get back together. However, it’s important to remember that this is natural and to resist whatever temptations they lay out. If you thought the relationship was working, you wouldn’t have ended it.

But sometimes the pain of the person who wants, or needs, the split can be just as, if not more painful than the other partner. For example, discovering that your partner has been unfaithful is unimaginably difficult to overcome. It can deal irreversible damage to the psyche, in a process called ‘Ego Death’.

‘Ego Death’ can be experienced on either side of the split. A relationship is built on trust. To trust someone is to reduce their complexity down to something manageable; you put your faith in their love.

This is why discovering infidelity is so painful; that trust is broken and reality dissolves into chaos. The person you love is not the person you thought they were; your past, present, and future are built on falsehood and uncertainty.

A similar experience can occur if someone that you love leaves you. This process, ‘Ego Death’, is a disintegration of your identity.

The ego is our identity. We believe things about ourselves that allow us to construct a self-image. During a break-up, this image can fade, as our beliefs are undermined by reality. The ego defends itself with various mechanisms to prevent dissolution.

A common defense that arises in infidelity is rationalisation; ‘maybe he cheated because of his rough childhood’. It’s important to recognise these defenses and transcend them. ‘Ego Death’ needn’t be negative; a phoenix can arise from the ashes.

Break-ups are painful, but it is from pain that we learn. Often, a break-up is a time for reflection and change. Sometimes returning to an ex can work, but often it’s important to remember why it is that the relationship failed.

It’s hard; you don’t take photos during the bad times, but they’re important to remember. Sometimes, more so than the good times